I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only
the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to
teach, ... -- Walden, Henry David Thoreau
My reasons for living alone in the old house were mundane. I loved its bright
serene space and its quiet neighborhood close to the trails. My kid grew up here
and I knew my close neighbors. In the past 13 years, the worst crime befell us
was when a pair of shoes vanished from the front yard and resurfaced one day
later in the nearby park.
I moved back in May and soon it was summer. Into Aug, record wild fires darkened
the sky and dusted the air with ashes. I was very happy to leave the gloomy warm
days behind when fall finally came. Around Thanksgiving, I had a new idea: to
get through the winter without heat. It appealed more to my curiosity than ego.
Armed with a zero-degree sleeping bag, I marched into the unknown.
I found that I loved it. Getting out of my cozy cocoon in the morning took some
grit (6-8am was usually the coolest time of the day). But not having to sweat
like crazy was a big help for lifting weight. An hour of running prepared me
well for a cold shower which always heightened the spirit. I was cryophilic.
The real challenge, however, came after exercising as I sat still at the desk to
work. A heavy jacket kept the core warm but the feet and hands felt frozen in no
time. At below 50 degrees fahrenheit, the body seemed to switch to a
conservation mode and blood flowed only to the head and vital organs.
I cupped my face and glasses of hot drink to warm the hands. I re-discovered the
half-lotus sitting where part of each foot touched and drew heat from a thigh.
Sometimes, I would do a dozen reps of Surya Namaskar in the middle of the day.
At noon, I would have a shot of hard liquor and a walk and the afternoon and
evening were generally much more pleasant.
Jan 4 to 5, I fasted for 40 hours and endured a harrowing night. With an empty
stomach, I couldn't fall asleep until 4:00am as the feet remained icy even in
the snug sleeping bag. It made sense: the body generated little heat without food.
It was programmed to survive and not to play my stupid games.
After fasting, things felt easier and Feb soon arrived. The west wind blew, the rain
fell, the grass greened, the dandelions, the dogwoods and the magnolias
blossomed, and winter was over.
I bought a dozen parsley from a neighborhood nursery, transfered them into
bigger pots, and started harvesting in two weeks. I sowed two dozens of heirloom
tomato seeds saved from last fall and hundreds of coriander seeds purchased from
the nearby Shalimar(an Indian grocery store). Let spring come!